A London herbalist's blog on all things herbal medicine

Maitake tincture making!
Found two beautiful maitake mushrooms in the forest, its a wonderful mushroom said to be worth its weight in gold in Japan, and heres why: it’s a fantastic immune tonic - regulating and boosting the immune system, it’s great for those who are really run down and fatigued and it also has anti-tumour and blood sugar level normalising properties.
So if your lucky enough to find one of these beauties (they grow at the base of very old oak trees!), heres what to do.
Clean the mushroom off, chop it into bits, boil it for 10 hours and finally reduce the liquid until it gets thick, then add alcohol to preserve it.
For an idea of quantities, i found 2.2kg of mushroom, boiled it in 8 litres of water and finally reduced it to 200ml, then added 75ml of 96% organic rye alcohol. So each teaspoon of tincture has about 40g of fresh maitake in! Super concentrated, potent and effective!

the-m-h-t-of-r asked: What are the best oils for infusing?

Sunflower oil and olive oil are great oils to start with and it’s easy to find both as organic oils too. My favourite infused oil to make is at John’s wort and I you use sunflower oil it goes a lovely bright red. Put the top 3 inches of fresh St. John’s wort plant and leave it in a glass jar by the window for 2 weeks in the sun. The light and gentle warmth extract the hypericin, the medicinal photochemical in the plant, into the oil. Hypericin is red and gives the oil a great colour. Strain the oil off and discard any water that will have sunk to the bottom of the jar (if you leave it in there it’ll make the oil go off quickly). It’s a great oil for muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shingles and for soothing the nervous system.

natural-minded-deactivated20140 asked: How long for a passionflower tincture to be ready? Also would you use a solution or just vodka? Also for tinctures do you prefer a vodka

Passionflower tincture will take 2 weeks until its ready to strain. You can make a solution from vodka and alcohol at about 25-30%. Personally I use organic grain alcohol, but vodka is just as good. Good luck!

Anonymous asked: Hello, I was wondering if you make bespoke tinctures?

Yes I do, have a look at www.earthmedicines.co.uk for more information or send me an email at joe@earthmedicines.co.uk to discuss your requirements. Thanks

He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.
Eternity by William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

Eternity by William Blake

Aloe Vera - Cooling Fleshy Medicine!

Externally it has an excellent cooling and healing action and is commonly used on eczema, burns and any inflammed hot or red skin. 

When taken internally it is very cooling and is traditionally understood to eliminate toxic heat throughout the body.  Aloe Vera has been used throughout history as a purgative.  Anthraquinone constituents found mostly just under the skin of the plant are chiefly responsible for it’s purgative and laxative effects.  Most Aloe Vera juice preparations you find today use only the inner part of the leaf so the laxative effect is greatly reduced.

Mistletoe - Viscum album

An amazing plant that lives parastically in trees, extracting all the nutrients it needs from its host tree.  Although it is a parasitic plant, mistletoe has an important role to play in the ecosytem, especially for birds and animals.

Historically it has been a plant admired by many cultures and it has many traditions associated with it, such as hanging it up to welcome in the new year, kissing under mistletoe & also it was said that carrying mistltoe warded off epileptic fits.

There is some controversy about exactly how poisonous mistletoe is and recent research is revealing that it is not as deadly as once thought, although it is best not to take mistletoe unless under the guidance of a herbalist as it can be very toxic: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2877602

Mistletoe is used by herbalists for conditions affecting the nervous system, circulatory system & respiratory system and is most commonly used by modern herbalists as a nervine and as a component of treatment for high blood pressure.  Traditionally it has also been used to treat eplilepsy, cancer and heart failure.

To make a tincture of this plant I have used 400g of fresh leaves in 1300ml of solution.  In order to establish how strong the tincture will be I have measured the amount of water & alcohol used to calculate the alcohol percentage and total volume of the tincture.  In this case I have added 1040ml of vodka (40%) and 260ml of water, which means the solution is 32% alcohol.  I have also taken a sample of the mistletoe used (100g) and will dry it to use for tea.  When it is dried I will weigh it again to establish how much water was in the fresh mistletoe.  Using this information I can then calculate very accurately the amount of dried mistltoe in the tincture and also the amount of extra water (that was in the mistletoe) that went in.  This will help get the dosage right.

After 2 or 3 weeks of leaving the mistletoe in the alcohol I will strain the plant material out and the tincture will be complete!

If you try this recipe, please make sure you consult with a herbalist before trying any of the tincture as mistletoe can be extremely toxic.

Gnarled Oak

Gnarled Oak

Opium poppy - Natures painkiller

Opium poppy - Natures painkiller

Gnarled twisted ancient hawthorn trunk.  A tree that makes fantastic medicine for the heart.

Gnarled twisted ancient hawthorn trunk.  A tree that makes fantastic medicine for the heart.

Porcini mushroom found on Wimbledon common.

Porcini mushroom found on Wimbledon common.

Hoof Fungus - Fomes fomentarius

Hoof Fungus - Fomes fomentarius

Making an anti-inflammatory and cooling herbal cream

Here are some instructions to making a herbal cream.  In this case I was making a cream for inflammed and itchy skin, although many other herbal creams will be formulated similiarly to this one.  The general idea behind making a cream is to heat water and oil componenets along with an emulsifying wax so that they combine to form a cream, which is sort of half-way between an oil and a water.  This is a good guide for more information http://www.fromnaturewithlove.com/library/lotionmaking.asp.

  • Add 80ml (approximately) of boiling water to a pan with 1/2 a cup of chamomile in it.  Leave to brew for 10 minutes with a lid on.  Then drain the liquid through a sieve to remove fine particles.
  • Cut some aloe vera, about the size of two fingers.
  • Cut the aloe vera lengthways in half and push through a sieve.  Add this to the chamomile tea.
  • Add 90ml of herbal oils.  In this case i used chickweed oil to lessen itching and for its cooling effect and calendula oil for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
  • Add 15g of emulsifying wax and 7 grams of beeswax to the mix and heat in a bain-marie until all the ingrediants have melted.
  • Finally add 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil (for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties) & 5 drops of chamomile essential oil (anti-inflammatory).  At this point you need to whisk it together and cool it down.  To do this I just fill the bain-marie with cold water and put the bowl back in.  Whisk the cream until it has cooled down significantly.
  • Store in a jar (as airtight as possible) & keep in the fridge.  The cream should last 1-3 months.  Should the oil and water separate at any point, simply re-whisk.
Blusher - Amanita rubescens
Edible but easily confused with other poisonous members of the Amanita family.  The flesh becomes pinky when bruised or exposed to air.  Another important identifying feature is the ridges on its ring, which the Panther cap (a toxic look-a-like) does not have.  If you are picking any mushrooms from the Amanita family make sure you know what you are doing and be 100% sure of a mushroom’s ID before you eat it.

Blusher - Amanita rubescens

Edible but easily confused with other poisonous members of the Amanita family.  The flesh becomes pinky when bruised or exposed to air.  Another important identifying feature is the ridges on its ring, which the Panther cap (a toxic look-a-like) does not have.  If you are picking any mushrooms from the Amanita family make sure you know what you are doing and be 100% sure of a mushroom’s ID before you eat it.